Category Archives: Random discoveries

Turkish cooking pot

I found this pot in a second-hand shop in town and, seeing a price tag of £12, couldn’t resist it. After quite a bit of trawling about on the net, I think it may be early 20th century Turkish. The indentations are said to make it easier to pick up from the fire, when a cloth is wrapped around it.

The tinning on the inside looked rather worn and scratched, so I’ve sent it away to be re-tinned, but just on the inside. I rather like the look of the outside. Apparently, the lid can be turned upside down and used as a serving dish, which is a pleasing design.

Once the re-tinning has been done and I have it back, I’ll post new pictures and will then head off into the woods to try it out.

I found a crayfish in a really weird place

Over the years that I’ve spent in gardens, I’ve come across all sorts of curious things – chocolate eggs, lost toys, hundreds of clay pipe stems, old bottles, fossils and oyster shells – but on a day in 2010 I made the oddest find to date. I was happily pruning a rambling rose that was trained against a lovely old Cotswold stone wall, when a flash of blue appeared amongst the foliage. The first thing that came to mind was a faded Hydrangea flower head, but there weren’t any Hydrangeas. Looking closer, I was astonished to find, hanging in the branches about 2m from the ground, a long-dead crayfish.

I admit that I’m not especially familiar with crayfish, wildlife on dry land has always been more my area of interest. I’ve watched them scurrying about the bottom of a shallow stream in the Lake District and I’ve been served them once, though I would rather not repeat that experience. A more fiddly and unrewarding meal I have seldom eaten. Crayfish haven’t been part of my life, so to come across one dangling in a rambling rose was a considerable surprise.

crayfish-1

Back indoors, I set out upon the agreeable pursuit of looking things up and discovered that there is only one native crayfish in the UK, the freshwater white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), which is increasingly threatened by an invasive American type, the signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus. The signal crayfish eats everything in its path and damages river banks by digging deep burrows which cause the river banks to collapse. Crayfish need lively-flowing streams and rivers to live in and it happens that there is a lively-flowing river running through this town, the river Windrush. I then discovered that signal crayfish have been found in the Windrush and realised that many of the  holes I’d seen in the banks are likely to have been dug by them. Comparing the shape, colour and markings of the claw of the crayfish I found to the one shown here, I concluded that it is a signal crayfish.

crayfish-2

So how on earth did this crayfish get itself from the river, some 500m away at the closest, and into a rambling rose in a town garden? The only answer I could come up with is that it was caught in the river by a heron and then dropped as the bird flew over the garden. Did the heron simply lose its grip on the bony shell or was the crayfish putting up its last fight and struggling to break free from the heron’s beak, snapping its claws at the bird’s face? Or maybe another heron was trying to steal the first heron’s catch and the crayfish was dropped as they argued. I’ll never find out how it got into that rose, but it reminds me that the world is vast, that there are countless questions I’ll never even ask, let alone be able to answer. There’s no looking this one up, it will always be a puzzle, but a bit of mystery is a good thing.

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I do not like ironing

Karl’s mum gave us her old iron in 1987 when we first moved in together. It’s a ‘Rowenta Vapo Parat’ and I’ve seen it listed as ‘vintage’. I think it must be at least 35 years old. We did use it to begin with – I think because we thought that social convention required it, but I’m not a great one for ironing and, in recent years, it’s spent more time in the cupboard than out of it.

iron-5This is what the ‘Rowenta Vapo Parat’ is supposed to look like

I don’t really like ironing and would rather spend the time reading or looking out of the window. In this house, clothes are washed, given a good shake and then hung on the washing line where the creases flatten out in the breeze. After that, they are put on hangers or carefully folded and put away and they generally look okay, if not as crisp as they might do.

iron-4This is what our ‘Rowenta Vapo Parat’ looked like when it came out of the cupboard

It has to be admitted that some items don’t get put away as crease-free as others and when that happens I just avoid wearing them. Clothes can last a long time that way. Sometimes, though, a time will come when a particular shirt would be just the ticket and then the iron comes out. The cupboard it lives in isn’t a very nice place – there’s a hot water tank in there and a large collection of dusters on sticks, carrier bags and spare light bulbs. We put our work gloves in there when they get wet; often the work gloves are dirty so the cupboard is pretty dusty. Also, this old house has a lot of woodlice crawling about in it and because the windows are open for much of the time, there is a good population of spiders. Very few flies, though!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were going to see family and I decided that it was time to iron a shirt. There was a pause while I thought about where we keep it and then I remembered the cupboard and went to look. There it was, on the floor, under some carrier bags. I pulled it out and frowned, trying to recall when it had last been used. A year ago? Two? Three? I couldn’t remember. It was covered in dust and old grey cobwebs.

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Most impressively, there was a ball of something hanging from a thread attached to the ‘steam on’ knob. What could it be?

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What is that thing?

It looked a bit like a spider’s egg sac and there were several dead woodlice caught up in it, as well as what looked like a mixture of hairs and bits of wool. Compared to the ball, the thread looked clean and fairly new. What could it be? Was there something living in it? Not wanting to cause disturbance if there was something living in it, I put it in the greenhouse and have been checking to see if anything has happened but, as yet,  nothing has.

Even if it is just a ball of random crud, the good news is that the iron cleaned up okay and still works as well as ever – and it’s vintage!

My life as a Victorian dairy maid – bringing the geese in

The milking, cleaning of the milking parlour and farmyard done, it was time to feed the animals and then bring the geese in from the pond outside the farmyard. Once the doors were shut, the farmyard was enclosed so no foxes or rustlers could get in and the geese would mill about quite happily with the chickens and turkeys that usually wandered about the place.

goose

The ‘how’ of persuading a group of large birds to leave the middle of a big pond and go where you want them to is one of those slivers of knowledge which delights me. It’s something you’d want to remember for the rest of your life, because it’s sounds so useful and, you never know, you might need to do it one day. Need help getting your geese off the pond? No problem!

Continue reading My life as a Victorian dairy maid – bringing the geese in

An unexpected pleasure on tree planting day

A little story related to tree planting seems appropriate for a first blog. It was a few weeks ago now, at a farm garden, and the lady farmer had asked me to plant three fruit trees, a plum, a cherry and an apple. ‘Get some tree guards from that shed in the corner’ she said. I’d never seen this shed and didn’t know it was there, hidden as it was amongst trees and brambles and in a far corner near to where the chickens live.

Some of the undergrowth had been cut back so there was a clear path to it and I was taken aback to find that this shed was an ancient railway carriage in the process of falling apart and returning to the earth. The tree guards were tucked away at one end so I gathered them quickly and then admired this unexpected treasure.

Continue reading An unexpected pleasure on tree planting day